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Cycling trip meant to inspire artwork and conservation

Students from Riverside Junior Senior High School bike down the Heritage Trail in Scranton.
Kat Bolus
Students from Riverside Junior Senior High School bike down the Heritage Trail in Scranton.

Riverside science teacher Travis Toth stood next to the lone redwood tree that grows alongside Lackawanna River on the Heritage Trail.

"On a recycled plastic plaque we'll put 'Big Red Retired from California,'" he said.

Toth joined nine juniors and seniors on a trek down the trail. On the ride, they learned from Owen Worozbyt and John Morrow, both from the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Association (LHVA), about the river and its surroundings. The students also looked for debris, plastic and other items to repurpose for artwork and signage that will be placed along the trail.

Worozbyt and Morrow both are unsure how the redwood tree got to Northeast Pennsylvania.

Toth and Riverside art teacher, Lisa Temples, received a grant for the project from the United Nations Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Global Development Project Fund.

The fund supports projects in schools across Lackawanna County and community nonprofits that empower young people. They must help address the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nation.

“What are the goals: clean environment, help alleviate poverty, help alleviate pollution, help alleviate homelessness," said Joe Riccardo, director of fund. "The idea of the strategic development goals is to create a better world."

Some students brought their own bikes; other borrow cycles from the LHVA. They started their trek at the Olive Street trailhead, riding down the trail to Taylor. They stopped along the way to learn about invasive species, like Japanese knotweed, and the indigenous people who once used the path.

"Previously it was a railroad. Before it was a railroad it was a walking path," said Worozbyt. "A lot of the walking paths that were used ... in the early days followed what were Native American paths ... what we're walking up and down today has traditionally been used a transportation corridor for one reason or another."

Courtney Stubaus, a junior, takes both art and science.

"We only have like one world ... it's getting ruined," she said.

She hoped to learn about sustainability practices and the impacts on the local ecosystem during the trek.

Fellow senior Jenna Davis was looking for inspiration for her art project in the things she collected on the trip.

This is the first round of grants for the Global Development Fund.

Riccardo said the students as future leaders will inherit the challenges and problems of the 21st century.

"They have to be prepared to see through the lens of not only their own community, but how their actions impact the greater world,” he said.

The Lackawanna River is a good example, Riccardo said. It flows into the Susquehanna River which dumps into the Chesapeake Bay and then the ocean.

"Even in their little corner of the world in Taylor, Pennsylvania, or in Scranton, Pennsylvania, they could do things that could positively, immeasurably impact the entire world," he said.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org